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Bachelor's Degrees in Special Education: Online and Campus Programs

Read on to find out how a bachelor's degree in special education prepares you to design adapted curricula and modify behaviors of children with special needs. Review the typical curriculum, find out about licensure for special education teachers and get info about online and on-campus degree formats. Check the job outlook for special education teachers.

What Will I Study in a Special Education Bachelor's Degree Program?

A bachelor's degree program in special education prepares you to work with K-12 children who have a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional, learning and physical disabilities. Throughout the program, you build strong foundations in theories and methods for teaching reading, writing, math and science. Curriculum development, assessment, evaluation and classroom management are some of the teacher competencies you gain. You also receive training in creating learning environments that promote positive behavior and honor cultural diversity.

The focus of the final year is on gaining applied teaching experience. You complete field labs working part-time with students prior to completing a 12- to 20-week supervised teaching internship.

Coursework Topics Curriculum development, teaching theories, classroom management, curriculum evaluation, teaching methods
Online Learning Interact with classmates and professors using e-mail and discussion boards; student teaching required at a local school
Licensure Qualify to take a state licensing exam by completing a state-approved bachelor's degree program; continuing education required to maintain credential
Work Settings Residential facilities, public and private schools, assistance agencies
Median Salary (2018)$59,780* (for special education teacher)
Job Outlook (2016-26)8%* (for all special education teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do Online Programs Work?

Online programs follow the same faculty-led curriculum as campus-based programs; however, online programs allow you the flexibility to attend classes around your work or family schedule. You must have a computer and an Internet connection to access classes and assignments through online course management systems. Interaction with classmates and professors is completed through e-mail and discussion boards. Your student teaching may be completed in a local area school.

Will I Qualify for Licensure?

Completing a state-approved bachelor's degree program that provides teaching experience qualifies you for licensing exams in most states. These exams typically cover subject content and special education teaching skills and theory. Depending on your state, passing may lead to a general special education license or a special education license in a specific category, such as learning and behavior disorders. You may also be required to pass a professional assessment test. To maintain your teaching license, you're obligated to meet continuing education requirements.

What Can I Do With This Degree?

A licensed special education teacher can find employment in public and private schools, as well as in assistance agencies and residential facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in special education were expected to increase as fast as average, by 8% from 2016 to 2026 (www.bls.gov). The increase in students with special needs due to improved diagnostic tools and legislation for the disabled were predicted to be key factors affecting job growth for special education teachers.